AKRON, OH – Battling back and forth with neither team’s defense or pitching staff willing to break, the Akron Racers and the Canadian National Team matched each other zero for zero as the teams fought into the 13th inning. In the top of the 13th inning pinch runner Janet Leung was placed on second base for Canada, utilizing the International Tiebreaker rule. After third baseman Natalie Wideman sacrificed her to third base, Leung scored on a ground ball by Larissa Franklin to lift Canada to a 2-1 victory Monday night at Firestone Stadium.
"I think offensively we had some good at-bats, but we left way too many runners in scoring position,” Racers Field Manager Charlotte Morgan said. “So, the game shouldn't have gone that long. I think from the offensive strategy standpoint we just have to have better approaches."
The game was the first game of an exhibition series that will not count towards the Racers’ NPF standings or statistics.
In the bottom of the 13th inning, Akron wasn’t able to capitalize on the International Tiebreaker rule, starting with Chandler Rice at second base. After Haley Fagan bunted Rice to third base, Canadian pitcher Sarah Plourde closed out the game by striking out Nicole Schroeder and getting Hannah Day to ground out.
Racers starting pitcher Megan Betsa allowed only two hits with no runs scored to hold Canada during her first four innings played. After a six-inning appearance from Sara Groenewegen, Betsa re-entered to close the game for Akron in the eleventh with one hit and one unearned run allowed. In total Betsa pitched seven innings, allowing three hits and one unearned run. Prior to the 13th inning, Betsa and Groenewegen retired 18 of 20 Canadian batters from the seventh through the 12th innings.
"We played a good, clean game,” Betsa said. “We just missed some opportunities to score some runs, and we didn't have a clutch hit, so I think that's an area we can improve in."
Akron (19-22) made their initial mark on the game in the bottom of the first inning, with a slap single from left fielder Kristen Wyckoff to get things started. After stealing second base and advancing to third on a wild pitch, Wyckoff scored on a groundball by shortstop Sam Fischer-Cooke that Canada starting pitcher Jenna Caira misplayed to give the Racers a 1-0 lead.
Although Akron was on the board first, their offense was challenged throughout the game by the skilled off-speed pitching of Caira. In seven innings, Caira allowed seven hits with one run and 14 strikeouts. In relief, Sara Plourde entered the game in the eighth inning and allowed three hits with no runs scored.
Canada fought back in the top of the sixth inning to tie the game. After designated player Kelsey Jenkins drew a walk, shortstop and former NPF player Jenn Salling hit a shallow ball to left field for a single, moving Jenkins to second. Kent State player and Canada first baseman Holly Speers sent a line drive to left field, scoring Jenkins and tying the game up 1-1.
After the sixth inning neither offense could muster much of an attack as pitchers controlled the pace of the game until the International Tiebreaker went into effect in the 13th inning.
"I hope tomorrow we come out with a little better plan and approach at the plate and I think that's what we need to work on getting into this weekend,” Morgan said “I want my pitchers to go out, execute their plans, and get ready for this weekend, but overall just do what they have to work on for themselves and for the team.
“The game will take care of itself as long as we are doing those things."
The exhibition series concludes tomorrow with the Racers hosting Canada for a game beginning at 5:35 p.m. Following Tuesday’s game, Akron resumes NPF play on Thursday by welcoming the Beijing Shougang Eagles to Firestone Stadium for the first game of a three-game series. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact the Racers ticket office at (330) 376-8188.
Game Time: 3:16
About the Akron Racers: The Akron Racers, headquartered in Akron, OH, are the oldest existing team in the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league. The Racers will celebrate their 16th season of play in 2017. The Racers competed in the Women's Pro Softball League (WPSL) for two seasons in 1999 and 2000 and in the NPF since 2004. Historic Firestone Stadium is home to the Racers and numerous amateur events at all levels of play.
About National Pro Fastpitch (NPF)
National Pro Fastpitch (NPF), an Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball since 2004, provides elite female athletes with an opportunity to pursue a professional career in fastpitch softball beyond their collegiate and amateur success. The NPF affiliate teams consist of the Akron Racers, Beijing Shougang Eagles, Chicago Bandits, Scrap Yard Dawgs, Texas Charge and USSSA Florida Pride for the 2017 season. National Pro Fastpitch players hail from the United States, Australia, Canada and China among which are the most accomplished and talented athletes in the sport of women’s softball.